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And Justice Wept

What happened to the American dream? The dream that anyone can make it if they work hard enough, and maybe have a little luck. That “you can make it if you try”. The dream that all men are created equal, and that nobody is above the law.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that corporations have been given the rights of people, now we see in plain sight that corporations have become our version of an aristocracy, with rights above and beyond what are given to “normal” people. But what else can you think when a large, multi-national bank admits to extremely serious crimes — including manipulating interest rates, aiding terrorists, and laundering money for drug cartels — and their punishment is no worse than a slap on the wrist?

We used to have “too big to fail”. Now we have “too big to prosecute”. As the NY Times put it:

State and federal authorities decided against indicting HSBC in a money-laundering case over concerns that criminal charges could jeopardize one of the world’s largest banks and ultimately destabilize the global financial system.

They are now above the law.

In fact, they are being rewarded. The government is bragging about their record $1.92 billion settlement with HSBC for their wrongdoing, but the good news that they aren’t even being indicted for their crimes has pushed their stock price up 10% in the last month, raising their market capitalization by $19 billion. Who is laughing all the way to the bank now? $1.9 billion may sound big but HSBC’s profits last year were $21.9 billion.

As Matt Taibbi puts it “Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke“.

Or as Glenn Greenwald notes, the same day that the government let HSBC off from criminal prosecution for massive drug laundering, they sentenced a 27-year-old black single mother of three to life in prison without parole for a minor drug offense — her former boyfriend had hidden a lockbox containing a half kilo of cocaine in her attic without her knowledge. Even the judge in the case said that what she had done “does not warrant a life sentence” but he had no choice due to strict sentencing laws.

Greenwald’s bottom line? “Justice is dead in America“.



  1. Patricia wrote:

    A stunning and important commentary. Thank you so much!

    Friday, December 21, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink
  2. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the hypocrisy of the HSBC “penalty”. It shows government in the pocket of big business at the highest levels and across a broad spectrum.
    However, on the last piece from Greenwald on the women sentenced to life for 1/2 kg, I am not so sure we have all the facts. The federal cocaine guidelines are divided into basically 3 categories for levels under 50kg, 50-150kg and over 150kg. Under 50 kg on a first offense would get you no more then 10 years and more likely 3-5 with most suspended and some probation. The only mandatory life sentence I am aware of for drugs is if your’e a 3 time convicted felon level with gun possesion. I saw a 1st time offender sentenced to 5 years for 170 kg caught with the drugs in his vehicle, I thought that was too light, but the judge cited it was his 1st offense, and he had no prior history. So I’m not quite sure this is the whole story. I’ll see what I can find out on that.

    Friday, December 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink
  3. Iron Knee wrote:

    I would be interested as well. I know that the drug laws vary widely from state to state, so good luck. Here’s the full story about that case —

    I also want to add that no matter what the circumstances of that particular case, the fact that HSBC isn’t even being prosecuted for knowingly laundering large amounts of drug money makes a mockery of justice.

    Friday, December 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Permalink
  4. TJ wrote:

    But “Corporations are people, my friend.”

    Friday, December 21, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Permalink
  5. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Thanks IK. Thats just wrong to have given her that kind of sentence. I think sentencing has changed since then and I’ve not seen that kind of time given out. Not even in the big cases I’ve worked on. I hope the aclu or SPLC takes up the case.
    I agree completely there were and are far to many big bank financial corps that have gotten away with ruining our economy and they have paid virtually no penalty or served hardly any time. Madoff was an exception, but the others should be treated the same way.

    Friday, December 21, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Permalink